As I was driving back from Marist last Wednesday on the New York Thruway, a thought entered my mind for the first time: If Rider goes to the NCAA tournament, what seed will they get?
I'm not sure if it's a thought that has entered Tommy Dempsey's mind. Coaches downplay stuff like that so much that really, it's not even worth asking him. If he's thought about it, I'm sure he hasn't mentioned it to his team. Maybe he hasn't mentioned it to anyone.
But it's now late enough in the season to have at least some kind of idea of which teams have a realistic chance to be in the Big Dance. And especially after the showing they put on yesterday at Siena
the Broncs have to be considered the team to beat in the MAAC and the favorite to win the conference title.
With that in mind, it was worth at least glancing at ESPN's Bracketology
to see where Bracketologist Joe Lunardi has the Broncs going. And if Lunardi's latest brackets were dead on, they'd be going right back to the New York Thruway, as a 15 seed, to play Georgetown in the first round.
That bracket was updated before yesterday's win, so I'm not sure if the next one will be any different, but since we -- unlike the Rider coaching staff -- have the freedom to speculate about stuff like this, here's what I think the possible scenarios are for seeding if the Broncs win the MAAC tournament and clinch their first NCAA bid in 14 years:
- This is a big-time longshot, but if the Broncs go undefeated for the rest of the season, including a nationally-televised victory over a quality opponent on Bracket Buster Saturday, they would finish the season 27-7 (including a 16-2 MAAC regular season) and enter the tournament on a 19-game winning streak. The 2003-04 Manhattan team that came within a couple shots of going to the Sweet 16 is the standard-bearer for success in the MAAC. That team entered the tournament with a 25-6 record, having gone 16-2 in the MAAC, then, courtesy of the double bye they received in the MAAC tournament, won two more games in the tournament. They had won 12 of 13 coming in, with their one loss in their final 13 games coming to Rider. They got a 12-seed. So I think if the Broncs win out, they'd have a slightly better resume than the Jaspers did and have a chance at an 11-seed. Not necessarily a good chance, but a chance nonetheless.
- If they lose one game the rest of the way and it's NOT the Bracket Buster game, I think a 12 seed is still likely. The reason the Bracket Buster is so important is that it proves the Broncs can beat the best teams in other conferences, instead of just beating up on the MAAC. If the selection committee feels the MAAC is a weak conference this year, it would likely penalize the Broncs heavily for losing that non-conference game. If they lose one game and it is the Bracketbuster, a 12 would be possible but a 13 might be a little more likely.
- If they lose two games the rest of the way, they wouldn't enter the tournament on quite they lose the claim to being one of the hottest teams in the country, but still go in playing very good basketball and with an impressive win total and RPI. A 13 would be possible but a 14 might be more likely.
- If they lose three games the rest of the way, I think their standing would be more or less the same as it was entering the Siena game, when they weren't the clear-cut best team in the MAAC. If that happens the situation would be similar to the one that led Joe Lundardi to give them the 15 seed. A 15 wold be likely with four additional losses too.
- If they somehow lose more than four games the rest of the way -- which would mean stumbling into the conference tournament but rebounding in Albany to get win it -- they'd be destined for an unwinnable game as a 16-seed.
What do I think it the most likely scenario? With three tough games remaining on the MAAC schedule (Niagara, Siena, at Loyola), I'd say the most likely scenario is for them to keep playing extremely well but lose one of their final six conference games. Especially because the opponent is unknown, you'd have to say the Bracket Buster is a toss-up. If that happens -- purely speculative, I know -- they'd enter the tournament with 25 or 26 wins, which I think would get them either a 12 or a 13.
Since we're free to daydream and speculate here at the TCHB, what do you guys think? What is realistically possible? What is likely? How would the tournament committee judge Rider?